Valley News -

Home-based food services coming to Riverside County


Last updated 3/22/2019 at 3:24pm

RIVERSIDE - Riverside County supervisors are scheduled next week to review a proposed ordinance that would establish rules and regulations for home-based cooks to serve hot and cold meals on a daily basis anywhere in the county.

Ordinance No. 949, introduced by the Department of Environmental Health, would incorporate provisions of Assembly Bill 626, signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown last September, making it possible for residents to operate "micro-enterprise home kitchens.''

The board's initial review must be followed by a public hearing, which will likely be set for April 16 at the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside.

Under the proposed ordinance, a single person who wants to bake or make edibles for-profit and serve them at home -- or deliver them to another location the same day -- would be permitted to do so, as long as no more than 30 meals are served daily - or 60 meals weekly.

The cost of obtaining a permit for a micro-enterprise home kitchen would be $651 annually.

Operators would only qualify if their home-based enterprise generates $50,000 or less in revenue, according to AB 626.

The law does not impose the same regulations by which general commercial food facilities, such as restaurants, have to abide, including having a three-compartment sink, using specific methods of handling certain products or ensuring a defined separation between the dining area and bathrooms or other spaces.

Cooks would, however, would have to obtain "food handler'' certification from the county to demonstrate an understanding of basic safe preparation, storage and service techniques.

Cooks would also be required to create a menu for inspection and maintain regular days and hours of operation, according to the ordinance.

Internet-based advertising would be allowed, but posting signs or other outdoor displays to stimulate business would be prohibited, according to the Department of Environmental Health.

Meals could feature stove-cooked meats, green salads, bakery goods and other products.

According to Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Indio, the aim of AB 626 was to "support healthy communities ... and economically empower talented home cooks with a pathway to attain income self-sufficiency.''

The legislation was an expansion of the 2012 California Homemade Food Act, which provided a means for cottage food preparers to make money selling pies, fruit jams and a range of dried edibles, but little else. To bypass some of the stricter elements of the California Retail Food Code, the micro-enterprise home kitchen concept was put forward.

The California State Association of Counties and other groups opposed it, based on concerns that the public might face greater risks of contracting food-borne illnesses.

Ordinance No. 949 mandates penalties for violations of food handling and preparation standards. Fines would range from $50 to $1,000, and misdemeanor charges could be filed, depending on the offense.

If approved, the ordinance would apply to all unincorporated communities and cities in the county.


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